Workhorse of Yesteryear: David Johnson's Usage Highly Concerning - Roto Street Journal
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Workhorse of Yesteryear: David Johnson’s Usage Highly Concerning

For the second straight week, Cardinals RB David Johnson severely underwhelmed, posting 48 rushing yards on 13 carries (3.69 YPC) while hauling in one three yard catch on a paltry two targets (5.3 Half FPs). Yes, this abysmal effort came against the Rams frightening defense. Still, Johnson’s lack of usage, both from creativity and volume standpoints, is far more concerning than the lack of production.  

Back in February, we expressed our concern over the loss of Bruce Arians and the transition to new OC Mike McCoy for DJ’s value, with the talented back falling all the way to No.7 on The Wolf’s “Way Too Early Big Board.” In fact, in our McCoy Breakdown, we noted: “he’s cracked the top-15 in yardage just twice, including a year with Tim Tebow, while ranking in the bottom 20 for four of nine seasons. Moreover, his teams have never scored more than 13 total rushing TDs, and have never ranked higher than 12th in Rushing TDs, ranking 22nd or worse in five of nine seasons.”

But we eventually succumbed to DJ’s own talent, and figured not even McCoy could screw this up. If Week’s 1 and 2 are any indication, we should’ve trusted our guts. Johnson has now touched the ball a meager 14 times in his first two weeks, as compared to over 23 touches per game under Arians.

Beyond the volume, Johnson’s being used far less creatively. In the receiving game, Johnson’s seeing his usage drop dramatically. Per Graham Barfield: In his historic 2016 season, Johnson averaged 31.1 routes run per game, an 19% target share, and he saw 38.1 air yards per game. This year, DJ has averaged just 16.5 routes run per game, an 18% target share, and only 8.5 air yards per game. Last year, he was split out as a wide receiver (in the slot or out wide) on 26% of his routes run. This year, Johnson has been split off from formation as a receiver on just 9% of his routes. He’s barely passed the line of scrimmage on any of these routes run, as compared to the various wheels and deep locks garnered under Arians.

Johnson’s also being force fed up the middle in the run-game, versus any outside runs that capitalize upon his athleticism. Betting on Talent is often the correct call, but here, Johnson could be running in Fantasy Quicksand all year.

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